The Vodacom Stormers’ main aim in their remaining Vodacom Super 14 matches is to win well and helping other South African teams in reaching the semi-finals is not a priority.
That was the message from coach Rassie Erasmus before the Stormers take on the high-flying Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday at 19:10. It will be the Cape franchise’s first match at home soil after an arduous trip to Australia and New Zealand where they won one game out of five.
The Sharks and the Bulls are strong contenders for semi-final berths and if the Stormers could beat the Chiefs this Saturday and the Force next week they would be doing those teams a huge favour.
But Erasmus and Schalk Burger, who will be leading the side in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers, concurred that while helping those teams qualify is a goal, it is not a priority.
“If we help them it’s really just a spin off,” said Erasmus at the Stormers weekly media conference. “Our primary aim is to win and keep progressing. If we can help the Sharks and Bulls, that’s great, but we really want to win well in the remaining matches.”
The Stormers are on 11th position on the points’ table and Erasmus says that was not a nice situation to be in. “When you lose a lot of players and you also lose so many close games pressure does start to build,” Erasmus explained.
“The pressure will always be on players and coaches playing in Cape Town because people are rugby mad here. But we also put pressure on ourselves and I think that’s the way it should be.
“We’ll take the credit if it’s going well and we’ll also take the pressure if it’s not. It’s part of the game.”
Erasmus was also asked about his future after media reports linking him to the yet-to-be launched Southern Kings, which SA Rugby hopes to have included in Super Rugby by 2011. He however dismissed any rumours of a possible move to the Eastern Cape, where he was born.
“My contract runs until the end of next year,” Erasmus stressed. “We are in a process and I think we are getting things right although the scoreboard does not show that all the time.
“We took a step back this year after doing well last year. I have made mistakes [but] I am improving as a coach and the players are getting better as well.
“We must learn from tough times like this. Unfortunately sponsors and fans want results, so we need to learn quicker.” The Stormers also in a media release confirmed their support for the coach, saying the recent visit of the chairman of the Stormers, Mr Pat Kuhn, and the president of the WP Rugby Union, Mr Tobie Titus, was not a fact finding mission, but rather a customary pre-arranged visit to support the team on its strenuous five-weeks tour.
“Both the chairman and the president also reiterated their unconditional support for the Senior Professional Coach, Rassie Erasmus. Recent reports that intimated that his position is at risk and that he is about to join another Union and would be replaced by a renowned coach, are unfounded and malicious.
“Both parties confirm their commitment to existing contractual engagements and their intent not to allow opportunists to harm the stability of their work relationship,” concluded the statement.